- Gavin Creel, On the Record
In a new Broadwayworld.com feature, Gavin Creel (Hair) talks about making his own music. This multi-talented artist and activist (he co-founded Broadway Impact, which advocates for marriage equality) says his musical influences are simple: "good beats, great hooks, sex in sound." Amen to that, Gavin! Gavin has already released two solo albums and his third is almost ready to "drop." (And, according to the Gavin Creel Newsletter I received this week, Gavin's working on a musical (of sorts) that was presented over the summer in Williamstown! Stay tuned for details.)
- Playbill.com Cue & A
You probably recall that Playbill.com regularly asks those treading the boards to fill out their questionnaire. This week, the lovely Jennifer Damiano (excellent in Next to Normal and currently impressive in Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark) answered the questions. Head on over to Playbill.com to learn fun facts about the talented young lady, including the moment she knew she wanted to perform for a living.
- Welcome [Back] na de Shrine!
When the first national tour of Fela! launches this fall, Sahr Ngaujah, who created the role both off- and on Broadway, will play the titular role. Ngaujah is currently appearing at Fela in the London production of Bill T. Jones's musical, which chronicles the life, music and activism of Fela Kuti. The tour begins September 13 in Washington, DC, and has stops in Philadelphia, Los Angeles and San Francisco, as well. Visit FelaBroadway.com/World-Tour for more information
- [New] Seasons of Love
Rent is back in New York. After about a three year absence, Rent is once again playing on a New York stage, albeit an off-Broadway one. Starring as Mark in this incarnation is everyone's favorite boyfriend, Adam Chanler-Berat. (He was the sweet Henry in Next to Normal; he was also excellent as Boy/Peter in Peter and the Starcatcher, which played at New York Theatre Workshop, which was, incidentally, the off-Broadway home to Rent before it moved to Broadway.) I haven't seen this production yet - I'll let you know when I do. In the meantime, please enjoy this brief interview with Chanler-Berat, courtesy of Broadway.com.
- The Muppets
Jason Segel, co-writer and star of the upcoming Muppet movie, The Muppets, recently spoke with Time Out New York about bringing the Muppets to life. Regarding rebooting the Muppets now, Segel said, "One of the things that’s...unique about the Muppets is [that] they’re not cynical. It’s become very easy to get laughs by making fun of people [these days], and that’s one thing the Muppets never do." I'm really excited for The Muppets, and knowing what a die-hard Muppets fan Segel is makes it even more exciting. (Plus, I love him from his Freaks and Geeks days!)
- Dig This
- Hotel/Motel, the site-specific double-feature from the Amoralists, will extend its run by three weeks!
- Meet the cast, including Michael Esper, of the Vineyard Theatre's upcoming production of Nicky Silver's The Lyons.
- Paul Rudd is interviewed by the AV Club. (Rudd stars in Our Idiot Brother, which hits theaters today.)
- The Muppets inspire nail polish colors
- NPR took a look at "Five Broadcast Programming Battles to Watch this Fall."
Friday, August 26, 2011
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
We meet Cal (Steve Carell) and Emily (Julianne Moore) on the night Emily asks Cal for a divorce. (Turns out, Emily had an affair with David Linghagen (Kevin Bacon).) Looking to numb the pain, Cal heads to a bar where he meets Jacob (Ryan Gosling). Jacob is a smooth operator (though when we first meet him we see him striking out with Hannah, played by Emma Stone). Jacob insists on taking Cal under his wing and reintroducing him to the dating world. All the while Cal and Emily’s son, Robbie (Jonah Bobo) is dealing with his first love, unrequited, naturally, and Hannah considers settling, not for Jacob but for a milquetoast guy just because he’s there.
When they’re done well, I happen to thoroughly enjoy ensemble pieces like this, films in which seemingly disparate characters are actually tied together. And one of the reasons I happed to enjoy such films so much is because it really is an ensemble piece – no one gets all the glory and so each character needs to be brought to life a talented actor, not just a pretty face.
See, the challenge in an ensemble film is that in order to tell everyone’s story, we don’t get to focus on any one character for too long; I’ve seen plenty of movies and plays in which the author is trying to tell too many stories and so we never get a full picture of any one character. Fortunately, not only has screenwriter Dan Fogelman written a smart and sharp script, but his actors are skilled enough that they can present fully fleshed out characters in a short amount of time. (Crazy, Stupid, Love is directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa.)
In particular, I was very impressed and pleased with Steve Carell’s performance. Carell is mostly known for his over-the-top schtick and zany antics, typified by his role on The Office. And when he was in Little Miss Sunshine, his character was rather one-note morose. It worked for that film, but it wouldn’t have been right here. So I was pleasantly surprised by his layered performance. He wasn’t some nutty, off-the-wall guy; he wasn’t a totally sullen wallflower; he was a dynamic character who was dealing with a life crisis.
Of course, I also really enjoyed Ryan Gosling. (You know, dear readers, that Gosling is starring in the upcoming film adaptation of Beau Willimon’s play, Farragut North. Now called The Ides of March, the film is directed by George Clooney and set for release on October 7th, the most wonderful day of the year!) I’ve been a fan of his for a long time, ever since I saw him in The Believer. (He was also stellar in Blue Valentine.) Here, he seemed to relish the chance to play slick womanizer Jacob, reminding me of some “playas” I’ve seen out and about. But Gosling has a tendency to bring subtle touches to his roles, marking character changes in soft, simple ways, and so when he meets a game-changing woman, the change in Jacob’s character is totally believable.
And I must say how much I like Emma Stone. She’s young (yet mercifully poised and mature) and talented and funny, and I’m really looking forward to watching her career. Stone has a thoroughly relatable quality about her and that works for her on screen. I found I was able to identify with her character, generally approaching life’s challenges from a logical point of view but every now and then going a little crazy, doing something stupid and falling in love.
Sure, there were moments of contrivance and even a morally questionable moment or two, but overall I liked the film’s understated-ness. I liked that it didn’t talk down to the audience. I liked that it seemed unencumbered by genre and more concerned with good storytelling. I liked that nothing was too tidy, but everything was still satisfying. I like Crazy, Stupid, Love.
Monday, August 22, 2011
Catch Me is vibrant and exciting. The songs are lush – this is now one of my favorite cast recordings. To wit: “Goodbye,” the show’s penultimate number, is now number three in my iTunes top played list. The two songs above it are at least five years old. “Goodbye” is a quick climber! And more than anything else, the incredible, passionate and masterful vocal performances in the show and on the recording are astonishing.
(The first time I saw the show, I thought the score was just good; after listening to the recording nearly non-stop and seeing the show several times, I realize that the first time was a fluke – there were so many wonderful stimuli vying for my attention that I couldn’t focus on how great the score is. I now know it’s incredible, and I think that my neighbors probably know, too… because I play the recording so frequently!)
Back in early 2009 (right before Hair came to Broadway), I attended the Defying Inequality benefit, which included performances from Broadway shows and composers. Toward the end of the night, petite Kerry Butler walked out on stage, opened her mouth and started singing “Fly, Fly Away.” I cried for four minutes straight. (Catch Me was in a pre-Seattle try out, developmental stage at that point.) It was (and remains) one of the most beautiful, moving songs I’ve experienced. And now every time I see Catch Me, I pull out my tissues before Kerry “The Petite Powerhouse” Butler starts singing because it still gives me the most excellent chills.
Moreover, Aaron Tveit soars in Catch Me, no where more than in “Goodbye.” (This is why it’s moved to the top of my top-played list!) When he starts singing this song, it stirs all sorts of wonderful feelings in me. The gestalt of “Goodbye” excites me on many levels. As a woman, I can’t help but be charmed and delighted by Aaron’s charisma, prowess and magnetic stage presence. As a theatre goer, I absolutely thrill over his virtuosic performance; Aaron (inarguably) has the best voice and vocal technique among his peers. (And, dear readers, you know I am enamored of John Gallagher, Jr.’s talents, but when it comes to pure vocal performance ability, Aaron takes the cake.) And, finally, as a theatrical scholar I love how the song is enhanced by various design elements that are most powerful in a theatre. Were similar techniques used on film, the moment would be good, but not as grand and evocative as on stage. As Aaron launches into the end of the song, “…the final word/the last you’ll hear of me/of me/is goodbye…,” what was a blank stage opens up to reveal color, lights and a terrific live orchestra. It’s in moments like that I’m happily reminded of the power of the theatre. It absolutely takes my breath away.
But, my dear readers, I think the element of Catch Me that makes me happiest is the palpable chemistry among the cast. I love nothing more than to watch people do something they love with people they love. That’s what happens at each and every performance of Catch Me if You Can. The father-son scenes between Tom Wopat and Aaron are poignant and touching because the two terrific talents have clearly developed a bond. And, when, during “Strange But True,” Aaron and Norbert Leo Butz tease each other with their spotlight-seeking one-upmanship, a big huge smile comes across my face.
The exquisite ensemble gets in on the fun, too. I hereby declare that before any chorus girl is allowed on stage, she must be given a master class by Catch Me’s favorite gypsy, Rachelle Rak. She is one awesomely sassy lady! I adore the fact that, like Rak, each ensemble member has his/her own attitude and looks like they’re having fun. In another musical, it’s said that “you’re never fully dressed without a smile.” While some of the ensemble member may be dressed in very little (men, take note: sexy stewardesses and naughty nurses abound), taking Rak’s lead, they are all most certainly fully dressed.
And they’re not the only ones smiling. Throughout the show, I’m smiling and laughing, to the point where my cheeks hurt by the time the curtain rings down! But it’s a wonderful hurt. No matter what is going on in your life at any given moment, it’s thrilling to know there are still safe places to go, places in which you can experience joy and wonderment, and watch experts at play. Right now, that place is Catch Me’s home, the Neil Simon theatre.
Catch Me is, unfortunately, taking its final Broadway bow on September 4 (I’ll be there!), but it’s heading out on the road for its first national tour in fall 2012. I highly recommend you see Catch Me on Broadway while you can and on tour thereafter. Theatre fans will quickly cotton to the score (the cast recording is phenomenal, including the bonus track, “Fifty Checks”) and appreciate the anachronistic show-within-a-show storytelling device. Those who generously accompany their theatre fan family and friends will also find plenty to adore, in addition to the score. Everyone will be able to sympathize with our notorious guide and, in particular, men will likely enjoy ogling the bevy of stunning female ensemble players, those jet-setting glamazons!
Visit catchmethemusical.com for video clips, song samples and the latest tour info.
Production stills provided by the Catch Me if You Can team.
Friday, August 19, 2011
- Casting News
- Hugh Dancy will join the Broadway company of Venus in Fur. This Manhattan Theatre Club iteration of the off-Broadway hit will also star recent Tony nominee Nina Arianda, who created the role off-Broadway.
- When Theresa Rebeck's new play, Seminar, hits the boards this fall, star Alan Rickman will be joined by Lily Rabe and Hamish Linklater (very funny in The School for Lies). This production will be directed by Sam Gold (Circle Mirror Transformation, The Aliens, et al.).
- Current Peter Parker Reeve Carney will play the incomparable Jeff Buckley in an as-yet untitled film about the famed and gone-too-soon musician. (Listen to Buckley's "Hallelujah" and try not to weep. You won't be able to.)
- Michael Esper and Linda Lavin will be joined by Dick Latessa and Kate Jennings Grant in the Vineyard's upcoming premiere production of Nicky Silver's The Lyons.
- Nick Blaemire, featured on Joe Iconis's Things to Ruin original cast recording, is joining the cast of the upcoming Godspell revival.
- Good Stuff Leo, a.k.a. Harvey Fierstein (seriously - rent Safe Men) will appear as a judge in season three of The Good Wife.
- The immensely talented Reed Birney will be starring in Adam Rapp's new play, Dreams of Flying Dreams Falling. This is a match made in artistic-collaboration heaven!
- Fosse Gets Stamp of Approval
Legendary choreographer Bob Fosse will be honored in 2012 with a USPS stamp. According to the article on Broadway.com, Fosse is one of four dancers being honored in this upcoming series. Fosse will keep company with Isadora Duncan, Jose Limon and Katherine Dunham.
- Dancing in Vail
Speaking of great dancers, during NYC Ballet's last week in Vail, Colorado, principal dancer Robbie Fairchild spoke to the Vail Daily about dancing with the company, dancing in Vail and finding himself through Balanchine's choreography. Fairchild is currently working with Ballet Master in Chief Peter Martins on Ocean's Kingdom, a new ballet scored by Sir Paul McCartney that will be premiere this fall. Single tickets are currently on sale. Visit nycballet.com to learn more and to purchase tickets.
- Carnage Trailer
The film adaptation of Yasmina Reza's God of Carnage is now titled, simply, Carnage. Here's the first trailer:
Over at GoldDerby.com they are offering picks for who will host the 2012 Oscars. Among the site's list of contenders is award show host veteran Neil Patrick Harris (brilliant at this year's Tony Awards), Jimmy Fallon (effective at last year's Emmy Awards) and Robert Downey, Jr. I think that GoldDerby's choice of Jimmy Kimmel is a good one. He won't be as sardonic as Ricky Gervais was (though I liked Gervais at the Golden Globes) but he'll still be funny and fun. Who do you think it will be?
- Taxing the Rich
This week, uber-wealthy Warren Buffett, chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway, wrote in the New York Times that Congress should stop coddling the rich. He said, "My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It's time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice." While I agree that the rich should contribute more to our nation's dwindling revenue stream, I don't think it's entirely the fault of Congress. Yes, Congress is a mess, but its "billionaire-friendly" legislation and tax rates are entirely influenced by the lobbyists paid by Buffett's rich friends. If Buffett is serious about Congress getting serious, perhaps he should put his money where his mouth is and start lobbying for more sensible tax policy.
- Movie Theater Etiquette
The folks over at IFC.com have created (and revised) a movie theater etiquette manifesto, listing the dos and don'ts of viewing movies on the big, public screen. Enumerated on the list are obvious pledges to stay quiet and to turn off cell phones. I do not understand how this is not an absolute no-brainer for people, but we've all been there when some douche starts texting during the movie, or tells his friend what's about to happen on screen. Also on the list is an admonition against bringing in loud or "stinky" food into the theater, exemplified on IFC's list by Chinese takeout. (Do people really bring Chinese takeout to the movies?) What would you add to the list, and is there a different set of rules for movie theater versus live-action (read: Broadway and off-) theatres?
- Bachelorette on Film
Last summer at Second Stage Uptown, I had the good fortune of seeing Leslye Headland's Bachelorette, a play focusing on some mean but damaged young women who gather together on the night before a friend's wedding, a friend the women had once nicknamed "Pigface." It was a sharp, scathing play, with expert performances from Celia Keenan-Bolger and Tracee Chimo. It was announced this week that the play will be produced (by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay) on screen. The best part is that it will star funny ladies Isla Fisher and Lizzy Caplan, and will reunite Caplan with her Party Down co-star, Adam Scott. Stay tuned for more details as they are announced.
- Dig This
- All aboard! The Anything Goes cast album is about to be released! Digital copies will be available beginning August 23 and physical copies of the recording will be available on September 20. Visit sh-k-boom.com to pre-order your copy!
- The Green Album is streaming on npr.org! (That would be the album on which artists cover their favorite Muppets tunes, not the Weezer album. Although, Weezer does appear on the record.) It's brilliant. I love "Mahna Mahna!"
- Andrew Rannells talks about The Book of Mormon, meeting Oprah and teeth whitening strips!
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
(Or maybe it could work as a longer play or film. It reminded me a little bit of The Ice Storm. That movie, of course, was well beyond 80 minutes, and the extended running time contributed positively to my consummate enjoyment. Both The Ice Storm and The Talls are set in suburban America in the 1970s.)
Making up the Clarke family are mom and dad Anne and John (Christa Scott-Reed and Peter Rini, respectively) and their children (in ascending age order), Nicholas (Timothee Chalamet), Catherine (Lauren Holmes), Christian (Michael Oberholtzer) and Isabelle (Shannon Esper). When we meet the Clarkes, we learn that John is running for city comptroller, and college student Russell James (Gerard Canonico) is running his campaign. Russell is supposed to come over to the Clarkes’ home to meet the family and talk strategy, but an emergency involving a family friend sends all the Clarkes—except Isabelle—to the hospital, leaving her and Russell alone.
While Kerrigan tried to depict other relationships (more on that later), Isabelle’s coming of age was the main focus, and her interactions with Russell primarily shape her transformation. At rise, Isabelle is 17, finishing up her senior year before heading from Oakland to Providence (she’ll be attending Brown) and she thinks she’s a liberated woman who knows everything. It’s not until she meets Russell, just a few years her senior, mind you, that she gets a bit of a life lesson. He shows her that while she may not be following in her mother’s footsteps and is progressive, she is still myopic in her worldview. He reassures her it’s okay, though, saying, “You’re 17; you’re not supposed to know everything.”
This comes as a revelation to Isabelle, who is in a family of overachievers (read: The Talls), and has probably never felt good enough, despite her impressive resume and valiant effort.
I’m glad Isabelle came around to this revelation because about 2/3 of the way through, though I was enjoying it, I started wondering where we were heading. I started asking my typical question, “What’s the point?” Thankfully, the play’s conclusion satisfactorily answered my inquiry, depicting palpable purpose and meaning to the last 75 minutes.
One part of watching The Talls that I particularly relished was watching Gerard Canonico get a chance to shine. Gerard was in the original Broadway companies of both Spring Awakening and American Idiot. In the former, he began as an ensemble member (he sat in street clothes in an on-stage seat), and understudied John Gallagher, Jr’s Moritz. He eventually went on to play Moritz in the final cast, but only for a couple of months. (I saw him perform the role just once, on closing night.) In American Idiot, he was a featured ensemble member, and while he was great in his role, the show didn’t afford him the opportunity to show off his acting chops. As Russell, Gerard personified a smarmy but somehow engaging charisma that bordered precariously on arrogant, but thankfully never crossed the line.
All of the actors were impressive, not just Gerard. Shannon Esper’s transition from strong woman to vulnerable late teen felt natural. Christa Scott-Reed’s stepford wife on the verge of a nervous breakdown was solid, and I liked Michael Oberholtzer (who looks like Ryan Philippe) as a jerkish but ultimately protective big brother.
Getting back to the crammed aspect of The Talls: The dynamic between Isabelle and Russell is really the central connection, although Kerrigan does try to explore the complicated sibling love-hate relationship of Catherine and Christian, as well as unrecognized feelings within the mother and the mother-daughter relationship. (Actually, the only character that was grossly unexplored was John, the dad. I felt he got short shrift; if Kerrigan returns to and expands this work, I would hope that John is developed a little more.) This probably sounds like a lot to tackle in 80 minutes, and it is, but the writing is good (as is the direction by Carolyn Cantor), so maybe NBC might consider adding it to its primetime lineup. (My suggestion: Bump off some horrid reality TV to show a family dealing with their (scripted) reality on TV.)
For more information about The Talls, visit 2st.com.
Friday, August 12, 2011
- Catch Me While You Can
It pains me to bring you this news, dear readers, but Catch Me if You Can will end its Broadway run on September 4. When the show closes on Broadway, it will have played 32 previews and 170 regular performances. Though its time on Broadway is ending, the show will live on via a national tour, which is launching in fall 2012 in Providence, Rhode Island. (Providence, by the way, is where the hilarious Safe Men takes place. Just saying. Good things happen in Providence.) Make sure you avail yourself of the opportunity to see this great, fun show - with a sensationally talented cast - either on Broadway, on tour or both! Visit catchmethemusical.com to stay up to date on this jet setting show.
- Sutton Foster Talks Anything Goes, Joel Grey
- NYC Ballets Moves in Vail
Last week I mentioned that NYCB was in Vail, Colorado, for the Vail International Dance Festival. This week, thanks to NYCB's Facebook feed (like them!), I found these great photos taken by Christopher Duggan. Duggan snapped the photo at right of choreographer Christopher Wheeldon while Wheeldon was working with principal dancers Tyler Angle and Wendy Whelan. NYCB's fall season starts September 13 and the box office is now open. Visit nycballet.com to learn about the season and to purchase tickets.
- 30 Rising Actors
Totalfilm.com presented its list of the 30 Hottest Rising Actors Right Now. I agree with many of the choices, including The Social Network's Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake and Armie Hammer, Emma Stone, Anthony Mackie (effective in A Behanding in Spokane), True Grit's Hailee Steinfeld, Inception's Tom Hardy (look for him (on DVD) in Scenes of a Sexual Nature), Michael Fassbender, Black Swan's Mila Kunis and Mia Wasikowska, great in The Kids Are All Right, In Treatment and more. Of course, I also disagree with some of the choices, like the vapid Blake Lively and the perpetually sullen Kristen Stewart. What do you think? Which actors (known primarily for film, not TV or theatre) should have been on the list?
- Possible Casting News
Speaking of rising stars and Andrew Garfield, the next celluloid Peter Parker will tread the boards this spring, playing son Biff Loman to Philip Seymour Hoffman's Willy in a revival of the Arthur Miller classic, Death of a Salesman. This is all according to Deadline.com. This possible production could open in March at the Barrymore theatre (recently home to the revival of Arcadia) under the direction of the estimable Mike Nichols. Scott Rudin, who has had recent success on Broadway in the form of The Book of Mormon and was also the lead producer of The Social Network is said to be the lead producer of this production. Visit Deadline.com for more information.
- Dig This
- The AV Club interviewed my favorite Aaron Sorkin alumna, Allison Janney!
- It was a busy day for the Hippies, and Broadway.com has photographic proof!
- The Book of Mormon's Bobby Lopez talks about his 10-step creative process.
- Weeds and one-time Spring Awakening star Hunter Parrish will play Jesus in this fall's revival of Godspell.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
(I won’t give away too many of the experiential details because I found it fun to be surprised by them. I will tell you this, though: Usually, I’m really adamant about having my personal space in my seat. I almost always try to sit in an aisle seat so that if the person next to me is unintentionally spilling over into my space (or the person is just rude and thinks he can spread his legs as far as he wants, inconsiderate of the presence of my leg), I can stretch myself out into the aisle. For the first play in HotelMotel, Derek Ahonen’s Pink Knees on Pale Skin, the small seats are set up so close that not only are the seats touching, but audience members are, as well. Under normal circumstances, this would annoy me to no end. But here, I loved it. It was all part of the intimate experience; all part of exploring intimate details with strangers and allowing yourself to be vulnerable to whatever lies ahead. The seats were rearranged for Adam Rapp’s Animals and Plants. Audience members weren’t as close to each other, but we were even closer to – in fact, part of – the action.)
We begin with Pink Knees. This frank work truly explores the human condition. As diabolical, disturbing or disconcerting as some characters and situations were, in Pink Knees, Ahonen (who also directs his play) presents some of the most raw, real and fully-developed characters and discussions about love and sex I have ever encountered. (And the fearless cast, led by Amoralist Acting Company member Sarah Lemp, contributed greatly to the verisimilitude. They had to – we were literally right under their noses!) Pink Knees, construction-wise, has the qualities of a well-made play: it takes place in one location and in real time. It also has the qualities of a well-executed play, which are often indefinable but, like obscenity, I know it when I see it. And I saw it in Pink Knees.
This is not for the prudish or unadventurous, but if you fall outside of those two categories and can snag a ticket to HotelMotel, what you’ll see in Pink Knees is an unhinged (though completely in control) doctor, Sarah Bauer (Sarah Lemp), who counsels couples in crisis through her own brand of sex-orgy therapy. That probably sounds more salacious than it is. It’s really a character study with sexual elements. One woman learns to enjoy sex; one man pleads for forgiveness; and a young man see his mother’s true colors and has a twisted reaction.
In his program notes for the play, playwright and director Ahonen writes that his parents and grandmother were always begging him “never to get married. My grandmother’s reasoning was that a spouse will take away your family. My father’s was that a spouse will take away your dreams. My mother’s was that a spouse will take away your youth.” It easy to see the manifestations of this wisdom(?) in Ahonen’s characters, but it’s also easy to see that he’s simply exploring some fundamental underpinnings of relationships.
Relationships are difficult; they’re messy; they’re complicated; they’re heart wrenching. They can also be deeply satisfying, enlightening and joyful, but audience members should consider themselves lucky that Ahonen leaves that aspect to romantic comedies (which are often neither romantic nor comedic). It is refreshing and not just a little reassuring to have a bold, brave and provocative voice speaking up for the less-explored side of human connection.
And now on to Animals and Plants, an Adam Rapp play that starts off very funny and spirals out into a dark meditation on loyalty and testing the limits of humanity. (As he’s been doing lately, Rapp directs his own work here.)
We’re in a motel room in Boone, North Carolina, and two drug runners are hanging out before the big score. It is snowing outside, as it has been for 17 hours. Dantly (William Apps) is sitting listless on the bed. He is a typical young, Adam Rapp-character, which is to say he’s sweet but simple. He needs protecting. Burris, Matthew Pilieci, has energy (and words) to spare as he bounces around the room, finishing up his post-shower routine and engaging in some calisthenics. He’s all braggadocio, but at the moment he is protective of Dantly.
In the opening scene, Rapp once again shows off his flair for the seemingly mundane but spot-on conversations that take place when nothing is happening. He has a knack for writing in his characters’ voices, not his own, and capturing exchanges that happen in the intimacy of closed quarters. (I was reminded – by the craft of the conversation, not its content – of the dialogue that opened Rapp’s Welcome Home Dean Charbonneau.)
Soon, though, Burris leaves and Dantly is momentarily alone with his all too vivid dreams. He wakes up to find Cassandra (who just might be very aptly named), the clerk from the head shop he had taken a shine to. Dantly is looking for a connection and he thinks he may have found it in Cassandra (Katie Broad). When he discovers that Cassandra may not bring hope but something far darker (like, perhaps, Buck (Brian Mendes)), and that he’s been betrayed, he reacts with violence and must retreat to something pure and true, like the snow.
Rapp writes in his program notes of the characters, “I hope your proximity to them will inspire you to want to reach out and touch them, take them in your arms, curse them or cover your eyes while peaking through the gaps in your fingers.” Indeed, at various moments I wanted to do all those things. I was completely transfixed. I found the more surreal moments a little more difficult to sit through than the more naturalistic moments, but taken as a whole it worked. The naturalistic moments wouldn’t have made sense without the vivid personification of dreams.
And that's the thing about the the specificity of the site and the closeness and intimacy of the environment. If this was in a slightly larger, more traditional theatre with a proscenium stage, I would have been able to look away; I would know I'm in a theatre instead of being immersed in this world. I needed to be immersed in this world in order to go on this strange journey with Dantly - in order to sympathize with him I had to really experience his circumstances. That's the awkward, beautiful, unique thing about site-specific theatre, and it rocks.
For more information, visit theamoralists.com. HotelMotel runs through August 29.
Production stills taken by Monica Simoes.
Friday, August 5, 2011
- Patti LuPone and Inigo Montoya
Well, really it's LuPone and Mandy Patinkin, but I LOVE The Princess Bride, so I couldn't resist! The acclaimed stage vets will bring their concert, An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin, to Broadway's Barrymore Theatre for a limited engagement beginning November 16. Visit Playbill.com for more details.
- NYC Ballet in Vail
Members of New York City Ballet are in Vail, Colorado, for the Vail International Dance Festival. The New York Times has a terrific slide show of photos, taken by the dancers, of dancers in rehearsal and at play around beautiful Vail. (I particularly like this photo of Tyler Angle and Wendy Whelan performing Christopher Wheeldon's Polyphonia.) NYCB's fall season starts September 13 and the box office opens August 8. Visit nycballet.com to learn about the season (which includes a new Peter Martins ballet scored by Sir Paul McCartney!) and to purchase tickets.
- Jason Bateman Visits The Daily Show
- Oscar News
I know, I know: It's August, which means it should be too early to talk about Oscar news. But, dear readers, the recipients of the Honorary Academy Awards were announced this week. James Earl Jones (as well as makeup artist Dick Smith) will both receive honorary Oscars, and Oprah Winfrey will receive the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. All three awards will be presented at the Governors Awards dinner in November. Visit Playbill.com for more details.
- On a Clear Day You Can See... the Cast
We have some casting news, dear readers, about the upcoming revival of On a Clear Day You Can See Forever. Jessie Mueller and David Turner, who memorably appeared in the beautiful concert version recently staged by the Vineyard Theatre, will join the previously announced Harry Connick, Jr., at the St James. Both Mueller and Turner were particularly impressive at the Vineyard so I'm very excited that they'll be making the Broadway transfer. Visit Playbill.com for more information about casting, and visit onacleardaybroadway.com to purchase tickets to the show. (Previews begin November 12; opening night is December 11.)
- Dig This
- Darius Nichols (Hud) gives us a photo essay capturing a two-show day at Hair, camped out at the St James Theatre for the Summer of Love. (Bonus fun: This is my high school classmate, Mike Evariste. He's also been in Les Mis, South Pacific and Rent. Way to go, Mike!)
- Smash, the NBC show about two writers writing a musical, will premiere on February 6, 2012, at 10pm.
- Playwright Adam Rapp's morning routine, courtesy of AMNY.
- According to EW.com, Leonardo DiCaprio may star in the western The Creed of Violence. (And according to Forbes, he is also Hollywood's highest paid actor.)
- Rent is back (and they performed at Broadway in Bryant Park this week):
Monday, August 1, 2011
Visionary director Michael Mayer (most recently of American Idiot fame) has played around with time and gender in this revival of Burton Lane and Alan Jay Lerner’s musical. (You probably remember Barbra Streisand in the movie version.) The results are simply lovely. I can’t think of another word to describe it other than lovely.
The score (which, according to the show’s website, “is enhanced by classics from [the] film scores for On a Clear Day and Royal Wedding,” also written by Lane and Lerner) is sweet and lush, and was brought to life with just a piano and incredible voices. (Lawrence Yurman is the production’s music director and arranger.) Lane is also the composer behind Finian’s Rainbow, so it’s no surprise that this score has that same smooth feel to it. Peter Parnell has updated Lerner’s original book, placing the action in 1974, among other changes.
This production, labeled on the program as “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever: In Concert,” includes David Turner (goofy and charming recently in Arcadia) and Jessie Mueller, among others, both of whom give excellent performances. (Mueller has a beautiful, gentle jazzy voice.) Also in this production is Marc Kudisch. Unfortunately, Kudisch won’t be in the Broadway iteration; in his place will be Harry Connick, Jr. (I suppose the more accurate way to put this is that Connick will be on Broadway; he was unavailable for this Vineyard run so Kudisch magnanimously stepped in.) I say unfortunately because I like Kudisch so much. He has this smooth, dulcet voice; it’s a voice for radio but believe me, dear readers, he has a face for pictures! There’s an entrancing machismo and presence about him that I respond to (I’ve also enjoyed his performances in, among other, The Apple Tree and 9to5), and I wonder if I’ll feel the same way about Connick.
Dear readers, I am now very excited to see this on Broadway. In fact, I think of all the shows opening this fall (lots of musical revivals, including Follies and Godspell), I am most looking forward to seeing this. If the Broadway iteration is half as good as this Vineyard lab production, then it will be amazing!
For more information about the Broadway production, visit onacleardaybroadway.com. Previews begin November 12 in anticipation of a December 11 opening at the St James Theatre.
Visit vineyardtheatre.org for more information about the Vineyard’s 2011-2012 season.